Is it normal for my child to echo what others say?

Repeating the words of others, also known as echolalia, can be a normal part of early language development. Young children may imitate phrases they have heard you say, lines from a song or TV show, or a familiar book passage. This is often a phase children go through as they try to make sense of what they've heard and practice new language skills. Lots of children begin imitating phrases around 18 months old.

Echolalia generally continues to increase until about 2 1/2 years old, after which it should decrease dramatically and then disappear altogether.

There are times when a child's echolalia can indicate an underlying issue. These include:

  • Still showing prevalent echolalia after age 3.
  • Rarely coming up with his or her own words to communicate.
  • Repeating back script verbatim, often out of context, but not being able to tell you his or her basic needs, like what he or she wants to eat.
  • Being unable to answer questions appropriately and seeming to not understand what you say.

For example, you may ask, "What is your name?" And the child responds with, "name."

If your child shows any of these abnormal signs of echolalia, talk to your pediatrician and don't hesitate to have your child's language skills evaluated by a speech-language pathologist.

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